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Austin From Scratch: An Interview with Kathie Sever, Founder of Fort Lonesome

Austin From Scratch is our favorite series on the blog and involves Owen (age 8) and Malia (age 6) interviewing local entrepreneurs who have created a thriving business here in the heart of Texas.  For this session, we sat down with Kathie Sever, Founder of  Fort Lonesome.  (For a really cool short story about Fort Lonesome, click here.)  We chose Fort Lonesome due to the kids’ love of designing things and Kathie creates some pretty amazing stuff. We hope you enjoy!

Owen (our eight-year-old son)
What were your favorite things to do as a kid?

Kathie (Kathie Sever, Founder of Fort Lonesome)
I grew up in a little beach town in California and we spent a lot of time at the beach for sure, but I’ve always like to sew…my mom  taught me how to sew when I was really little and so I spent a lot of time making little dolls and clothes for my dolls.  I liked to read comic books.  We also lived across the street from a forest and a spent lots of time in the forest making little hideouts.  The neighborhood kids also had pretend horses so we spent a lot of time in the forest with those pretend horses as well.  That’s what I remember the most from when I was little.

Owen
How did you go about learning as a child?

Kathie
My parents were both teachers…my dad taught photography and my mother taught sewing and math so we did a lot of that stuff at home.  My parents both led outdoor adventures for the Sierra Club and so we actually did a lot of learning outdoors when I was growing up.  We did a lot of river rafting and hiking and so I would say that a lot of my learning was outside of school too.  Learning how to just be in the world and the wilderness.  And we would travel to the mountains and the canyons…because growing up in California there’s all kinds of places to go.  You don’t have to go very far to find all these amazing places.

Owen
How would you describe your business?

Kathie
I make clothing for people and I do a lot of embroidering on the clothing to decorate it and to tell stories on it and to give people the opportunity to tell stories through the pictures on their clothing.  Another way to say it is that I like to take clothing and make it more valuable to people…so I put things on it that make people want to hang onto their clothing for longer.  Because when you’re an adult and not growing anymore, people get bored with their clothing and they want to get rid of it and that’s not really good for the environment.  Producing fabric and producing clothing causes a lot of environmental problems and so I like to try and figure out a way to make clothing so that it’s important enough to people that they want to hold onto it for a long time.

Owen
When did you first know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Kathie
When my daughter was born, I was a pastry chef and I had to get up at 4:00 in the morning and work a lot of really weird hours.  And I really wanted to be around when she was little and since I had done some sewing growing up, I just started to try to see if I could make things to sell them to see if it that would be my job so I wouldn’t have to work outside of the house.  And that turned into this.  And my husband is a musician which means that he’s gone all the time because he has to go on tour and that’s how he makes money.  And since he’s gone, it would be hard if I was gone all the time at work, so that’s why I decided to give this a try so I could be around for the kids.

Owen
What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

Kathie
Being able to be here…working from home…even if it drives them crazy sometimes.  But at least I’m here and I don’t have to be at the office.  I don’t have to leave when they have a day off from school, even if I’m not able to just take off whenever and do whatever…wherever.  I can kinda work around their schedule and that’s my favorite part.

Owen
What is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?

Kathie
The most challenging thing is that it’s up to me to make sure that I get paid.  So instead of somebody giving me a paycheck every two weeks – no matter what – it’s my job to make sure that all that income is rolling in and that’s really, really complicated when you’re an entrepreneur.  You’ve got other people you have to pay, you’ve got materials that you need to buy, you’ve got insurance that you need to keep and you’ve got machines that you need to repair…and all of that stuff is really, really expensive and hard to juggle.  And I’m more of a creative person than a business person so that part for me is really, really challenging.

Owen
What would you be doing if you weren’t a designer?

Kathie
Well, I was a pastry chef before I started this business…so maybe that.  And I also have fantasies about being a park ranger and just being able to wander around and hike all day long…that would be pretty great.  I got a my college degree in painting so that’s something I used to do that I don’t do anymore.

Owen
Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?

Kathie
The advice I would give a young entrepreneur is to figure out a way to develop the muscle to learn how to do something that’s not your favorite thing to do…and do it on a regular basis but with some sort of enjoyment.  Because there are things that you do want to do and there are things you don‘t want to so it’s all about regularly practice making the things you don’t want to do sort of enjoyable so you’ll continue to do them.

Malia (our six-year-old daughter)
Where did you come up with this idea?

Kathie
Well, it’s one of those funny things about life where one thing happened and then another thing happened and it turned into this.  But a lot of it was just because I grew up sewing with my mom and then when my daughter born I wanted to stay home so I had to figure out a way to do that.  And another funny thing that happened was I lived in Montana for a while with a bunch of cowboys and I got really, really interested in cowboy culture or Americana and I really loved this weird national language that is spoken in clothing and sort of a style, like cowboy style.

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As we wrapped up our interview with Kathie, she was kind enough to give us a brief sewing example and she let the kids give it a try as well.  She is truly a gifted artist and designer and the kids left feeling very inspired.  To see more of Kathie’s work, check out her website which can be found here.  Thank you Kathie!

 

Malia

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